Creating a Series Pt 3 - Early Beginnings

Making Of / 25 November 2018

HEY THERE!

So people have been wondering about my next project, it's already been started. It actually started 6 years ago when I first made my Animé-inspired piece in Unreal Development Kit. I had gotten hired by Ubisoft Massive and a couple of years later I decided to try and do a stylized environment art piece and it resulted in this. At the time I was heavily inspired by Airborne & Wind Waker HD and I guess even today I still am very inspired by those games.


In reality I have spent about a weeks worth of evenings on this new project setting it up


Right after I finished up Beyond Human, I started researching and gathering material to create another more stylized piece back to the roots of what I enjoyed doing before and then BAM, Helder Pinto shows his Europa-game and it blew  my mind. It's the single-most beautiful game environment I've seen and it reminded me so much why I wanted to make more animé-inspired art.

My main influences:

  • Anime
    • Ghibli
    • Naruto
    • Hunter X Hunter
  • Video Games
    • Zelda : Ocarina of Time
      • Probably the most influential game that made me want to get into games.
    • Zelda : Wind Waker
    • Zelda : Breath of The Wild
    • Rime
    • Firewatch
    • ICO / Shadow of the Colossus
    • Ni No Kuni : Wrath of the White Witch

There is a trend here to the kind of games I really enjoy =P , but yes, these are my main inspirations for the next few months to come.

NAMING THE PROJECT

So I've decided to give the project I'm working on a project-name.
 I've decided to call it Legacy (work in progress logo xD )


Legacy is the project-name for my art-series, it describes a game / world in which the player wanders finding artifacts and legacies from times past.

DEVELOPING EVEN MORE STYLIZED ART?

Well seeing that Helder, has already managed to succesfully re-create Ghibli, I've been analyzing his art a lot and I've been trying to replicate his style in UE4 (I'm sorry buddy :( , but it's just too good, I need to learn your secrets).

So my task right now is to use most of the previous tech that I've used and implement a lot of it in this new Unreal Project but also piece-by-piece trying to figure out how to acquire a look that is either spot-on or similar to Europa & Rime.


LEARNING NEW THINGS

So, I still believe I don't have the full toolbox of skills to be able to achieve everything I want. One one hand I'm trying to achieve a new cleaner style and secondly I need to spend more time learning stylized sculpting in Zbrush. So at the same time as I'm doing this in Unreal Engine , I'm also spending time reading / watching / doing tutorials. So you might see some of that here as well.

GETTING STARTED

The long lonely road...

The NR 1 thing I usually do when starting a project is Reference, which I've done and then I'm trying to lay down the ground-work for the whole project, as I stated in my previous post . For me that means, getting all the basic tech in that I want for the scene.

  • Time of Day Solution
  • Cloud System
  • Dynamic Lighting
    • After my recent endevour with LightMaps again for the interior scene I made, I just..want to make art, dynamic lighting helps with that.
  • Global Illumination Solution
    • Ended up looking mostly at Light Propagation Volumes, though Nvidia Voxel GI looks interesting I'm not sure I can be bothered to make my own build to get it going.

etc

CLOUD SYSTEM

I wanted a decent cloud-system this time around so I went shopping around the Marketplace and found
Cloudscape Seasons which I've had great-success with so far, and Nilson Lima has been a great help and support for just setting my stuff up 10/10 service. I'll see how far I can get with this or if I need to change later but for now it gives me really nice fluffy raymarched volumetric clouds.

GRADIENT MAPPING

Color Ramps & Gradient Mapping  has been around for quite some time though I've never really been using it for much. My main thinking for using it in my project is that I want to be more flexible with the colors I use.  I want to:

  • Create Palettes of Colors that I use for everything
    • Grass has one palette, Rocks has one etc etc and each could be tweaked or swapped in other regions of the world
  • Be versatile
    • I don't want to have to push out a specific albedo map out of Substance Painter / Designer every time I want to try new colors
  • Removing Noise
    • One of my visual main pillars are about removing noise, in the environment, limiting the amount of colors any asset can have will help with this overall goal I believe but also help consistency.

GRASS SHADING

The initial implementation of my grass just to use a solid color that I multiplied with a linear gradient, it looked really nice in its simple state. Overall I quite liked the look of it and I was happy with it until I realized it didn't look painterly enough, just samey.

 So after looking at lots of Ghibli references I realized that I need to focus more on the bigger picture  and larger clumps than individual straws of grass.



Now the easiest most obvious solution to getting this type of Shading I realized was to make sure the grass 100% picked up the color from the terrain material. If the terrian material is nice and varied the grass will pick up the colors and be shaded the same way, which gives a nice painterly feel to all the grass.


What's the best thing about this ? It reduces noise but also add more detail to the environment in a good way. The clumps of grass that is colored ends up being in front of another shade of grass which really gives that painterly feel to all the grass.


Another positive about this is that the grass perfectly blends with the distant terrain and it minimizes popping by a lot. It's a lot easier to optimize the grass and make it LOD-away quickly if it already perfectly blends with the terrain underneath.

FLOWERS, WATER & TREES


So I decided to add the water I made for the Beyond Human project though I've stripped out the tessellation since I'm not sure I want to use it since tessellation is generally a real performance hog and I'd like to figure another way making the water generally nicer in the environment. I might want to go back to tessellated water later on but for now just a water-plane will do I think.

I also decided to make some flowers to see if I could get a similar result, I also tried making a quick tree which is still better than I've done before even though its quick. I need to spend more time actually developing the look for some of the trees.

SO CHRIS WHY ARE YOU DOING THE EXACT SAME THING AS HELDER EH!?

"Imitation is the highest form of flattery"

Well actually, I'm using what he's currently shown as a benchmark of trying to find the same / similar style myself. It's the Ghibli style we want to achieve as well and Europa is the closest piece of art I've found to it. If I nail the arstyle then I can at least move on to my own custom areas. 

 That's the whole point of it! 

Either way I gotta thank Helder for Europas existence, it's inspired me to no end :)

SO WHAT'S NEXT?

Well, the next step is to basically start developing my own areas and compositions.  That said however I still have to implement proper landscape materials, make nicer trees (current is a 5 min hackjob), have a try at making rocks & figure out shading of buildings and what not.

So in the future you'll end up seeing some more original stuff from me.

Warping Out!


/Chris Radsby

Crafting a Series Pt 2 - My Production Process

General / 25 November 2018

Hello Again!

So I've been getting some questions regarding my process and how I deal with finishing projects in time so I thought I'd just jot down my thoughts here.

I think the first steps to how to achieve something like this is to compartmentalize what you’re trying to make. It's way to easy to become overwhelmed if you start thinking about everything at the same time. Big projects have a natural order to them and a lot of the time it's easier to follow the same structure that most game-titles follow.

But here is a recap of the steps I take for each project I do:

GATHERING REFERENCE

I think the first step I usually do is to gather reference and I think most experienced artists does this, I gather a huge amount of reference; everything from concept art, to video-game art to real life reference. I usually stack everything in on folder and then I tend to move things over to more organized folders once I've figured out what I like and don't like.

The most important step here for me isn't that each concept need to fit the style that I'm currently aiming for. You can easily get find real life photos with great composition that can work for you, swap buildings with trees, swap the main portrait person to a shrine etc. Don't limit yourself to only look at the style and concept art.

Oh and the most important thing:
IF you're working from reference completely like the Artstation Challenges, then it's important to pick the right concept.
The Right concept is the concept that has great composition, great storytelling & actually viable for production in 2 months. 

This is the most important thing.

The more experienced you are, the easier it gets to quickly breakdown an environment in your mind into chunks of time you would spend on asset creation but doing some initial calculations is always good to do before you decide to jump head-first into making an environment.


COMPLETING THE GROUNDWORK

Getting the groundwork over with is pretty important and it's something that I usually do first before anything else.
I tend to ask myself a bunch of questions to just start to narrow my scope and nail down what I want to achieve

  • Should I make a realistic piece or a stylized one?
  • Should I make an interior or exterior?
  • Should I use Lightmaps or Dynamic Lighting? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • Do I want to have a day night cycle? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • Should I make an open world or contained levels? 
    • What are the pros & cons?
  • What visual design pillars should I have? 
    • Dark / Gothic / Happy / Colorful / Busy
  • What is the absolute basics of the lore of my piece?

etc

NAILING DOWN THE ARTSTYLE & BASIC ASSET PRODUCTION

The next step I usually take is to try and nail down my art-style, this isn't something that is easily done, for realistic art its pretty straight forward but for everything else, then this becomes a pretty important step to do:

I Generally do visual development of each asset type:

  • How should my trees look like? 
    • Create workflow ->  match visual style
  • How should my rocks look like? 
    • Create workflow -> match visual style
  • How should my grass look like? 
    • Create workflow -> match visual style

etc

After that:

I ask myself : is this workflow viable for production when I'm all by myself ?


This is an important point because generally people tend to have a workflow/pipeline that is way too cumbersome, like creating unique UVs and normal maps for each individual asset they create. Sometimes it's just too much so you kinda have to figure out a good middle-point that is sane and viable for you otherwise you won't finish in time or you'll just overwork yourself.


So this is why figuring out the "ground-work" is important. You need to get a grasp of how long it'll actually take to create an environment with the style you want to do. Sometimes I spend weeks before a project "really" starts to just do research about shaders, colors, compositions, visual pillars. So that when the time comes, I can focus on just making art.

In my latest piece Western Challenge -  the Demons Control Us, I used mostly Stock Textures that come from UE4. It's a shortcut I decided to take because I was spending so much time just dealing with the baked lighting.

Yep, that's right so what I'm trying to say is:

TAKE SHORTCUTS

So Game-Art is all about taking short cuts, to finish you're going to need to take some short-cuts. There are always quicker ways of working, every asset doesn't have to be super awesome quality. This becomes even easier the smaller your project is.


REACHING THE FINAL STAGE - SACRIFICES NEED TO BE MADE

I usually plan an escape plan for myself, this might sound weird to you guys but I tend to compartmentalize my projects so that I can make sure that I can chop it in half or more if I have to. It's something I started doing when I started making projects a while ago that I never finished, it's so that if I feel overwhelmed or life happens then I can half my project time or more.

If you make an interior scene, I make sure it can look good with the whole room or if I feel like chopping it up then I do a corner of the room.
If you want to make a forest + creepy house, then the creepy house is probably on the chopping block first if you start feeling overwhelmed.

During this I also tend to make an Excel sheet of all my planned assets, this includes VFX, Shaders, Lighting, Assets, Environments, Animations.


Assets are prioritized from Green text to Red,  Green Text = vital for the scene, Yellow = Good to have , Red = Nice to have but not necessary

But then I also mark out the stages, initial stage = Prototype, Revisit = Second pass, Polish = Polish.

So what I tend to do is to deal with everything that I've marked with green text, those are the most important things for the scene. It's the absolute bare-minimum needed to create a decent art-piece. The rest is just cherry on top.


WELL THIS IS ALL FINE AND DANDY BUT WHAT ABOUT REAL LIFE?

Looking at this huge blog-post I still feel like I haven't given any decent answers to anything maybe because every step of the way could probably be a lot more detailed. There is no straight path to success sadly, there are things that help for sure but in the end, discipline & hard-work will carry you all the way to the finish line. That and an unhealthy amount of energy drinks.

Either way, I'll try to show off as much of my thinking and production in this blog. I'm going to start writing the next one now already and it's what... 3:15am? Oops.


Until next time!

Warping Out
/Chris Radsby

The Next Steps - Introduction - Creating a Series

General / 16 November 2018

Welcome to the Ultimate Warp Zone.

Some of you know me quite well some of you don’t but even so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about myself.
I’m Christoffer “Chris” Radsby, I’m a gamer and a game-developer. I’ve played games since I was like 5-6 years old starting out with Ghouls ‘n Ghosts for the NES. It’s the first game I remember playing and it basically warped me into the wonderful world of video-games.

It’s no understatement when I say that I love video-games. My love for video-games have driven me to some serious issues with video-game addiction,constant loneliness even among friends or loved ones just because I had a hobby that I couldn’t share emotionally. They just didn’t like video-games as much as I and it made me feel super lonely.

These days, my love for video-games is a more positive thing. I’ve found happiness, friends and love. I feel blessed to be working at a wonderful game studio (Ubisoft Massive) and I've been there now for 8 years and I'm currently a Senior Environment Artist.

I think that these days even though I call myself a Game Artist I've always felt that I'm a better Game Developer than an artist. I've always been very interested in every aspect of game development.

As an artist however...

I like vivid colors, good composition and noiseless environments that are pleasant for the viewer but also pleasant to exist within. I like that sense of serenity you get when you spend time inside of beautiful environments lost in your own immersion. An escape from reality.

And you can see in my latest works that I’m slowly trying to incorporate those values of mine into my art-work going from Realistic -> Stylized. I've been trying to find and develop a style that I like working with. Not that I mind making realistic art, it's just that as an employed senior artist I have the luxury to explore the art I want to make, rather than make the art that would land me a job and I fully intend on doing so =P


So what does this mean for the Future of my Art?  

Well, for a long time now I’ve been thinking about creating a consistent universe of my own "creation", an idea that my awesome buddy André Wahlgren told me about and hit really stayed with me. Some parts of the universe would be my own and some parts obviously inspired by others artists all of which would be realized inside of Unreal Engine 4.

This means that in the next year to come I will continuously work on one style of art and create a series of art-works related to the same universe. 

At the same time I would be doing my Mentorship allowing people to join in, ask questions and see the development of the art-style and my own skills. I'm planning on sharing my journey here on ArtStation but also trying to be more active in my Twitch Stream . The dream would be if by the end of it I could basically compile a small collection or something with different art-works. Now I have no idea how long this will take in reality but I've never done this before so It'll be an experience for sure!

So please stay tuned and you’ll see my journey trying to get this done. I will post all of my Research & Development, Techniques and thinking behind the scenes on this art-blog and hopefully by the end of it we’ll have something that might be worth showing the world or it’ll fail,  it doesn’t matter.

It’s a learning experience and meant to be fun :)

Warping out!

//Chris Radsby

Starting a Mentorship

General / 10 November 2018

Starting something new and exciting! 


Being part of some awesome art-communities, they've always told me I should try to be a mentor since I like helping out and see other artists develop their skills. Now the opportunity has appeared, I got the chance to join the super awesome Josh Lynch and the Mentor Collective.


So I'll be doing an Environment-Art mentorship focused on helping others developing their skills as an artist, but also creating artistic, soulful & powerful environment art. 

During my time in the industry I've been slowly moving towards simplifying my art with the goal of just empowering my core skills and what I'd like to do is to take what I've learned and help others grow both artistically & technically. 

Grow together even! Since I'll be making new pieces of art at the same time during the mentorship. My next piece is a stylized and wonderfully pleasant piece and I'll share my development of it here on the blog, but also possibly on my  twitch channel.


Check it out over at: thementorcollective.com/world-building… 


and hey, thanks for reading <3

/Chris Radsby

[OLD] Modo - Baking down Alpha Cards to Textures

General / 18 June 2018

[OLD POST - This is how you bake down alpha cards to textures in Modo, super handy for making billboard trees that has several layers of alpha. A lot of 3D-software actually has a lot of issues dealing with this kind of stuff without getting overlapping issues when projection baking]


So I figured out a while ago how to bake down alpha cards to texture in Modo. One of the bigger weaknesses of Modo is that it has a hard time dealing with Alpha in the viewport. There are ways to do it for decent results but you'll have to deal with sorting issues when making foliage.

Oh well, back on topic, discovering the solution for baking down alpha cards to texture I thought I'd document it here.

  1. Change the texture you want to bake down to RGBA from the default diffuse-color. Also make sure that your diffuse-texture has an alpha channel.
  2. Create your Bake-Material for the plane or object you want to bake it onto.
  3. Use regular baking workflow to bake your alpha cards out. 
  4. If they show up as full white, don't forget to change your diffuse-color in your material to black.
  5. You can also preview your alpha cards by rendering it properly. Just add another alpha mask on top (Black and white texture) and set it up as a Stencil. (pull specular and fresnel down to 0 as well on your leaf material)